- Jeff Legwold, ESPN Staff Writer
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Manning passed the required exit physical given to all of the team’s players in the days after the Super Bowl loss to the Seattle Seahawks as the players adjourned for the offseason. Monday’s exam is part of his contract and the Broncos expect to hear Manning is ready to go for the 2014 season.
Manning said throughout Super Bowl week that his intention was to play in the 2014 season, but team officials have routinely said the scheduled exam was the last formality remaining. Manning has had four neck surgeries, including a spinal fusion that kept him out of the 2011 season, but has had no significant or unexpected issues with his neck as a result of playing this past season.
Manning played tournament golf in the Pebble Beach Pro-Am just days after the Broncos’ loss in Super Bowl XLVIII, a clear indication he was not having issues with the neck following the season. Broncos executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway said at the scouting combine last week team officials expected Manning to be given a clean bill of health after the exam.
While Manning's playing future had been a topic of note during the postseason and the build up to the Super Bowl, Broncos officials have been proceeding under the premise Manning has been set to play in 2014 all along.
Manning had a similar exam a year ago in the wake of the 2012 season. That March 2013 exam kicked in a $20 million guaranteed salary for 2013 and a $20 million guaranteed salary for 2014, to go with some salary advances along the way. Manning was slated to return to Denver for the physical following an awards banquet -- the 44th annual 101 awards -- in Kansas City Saturday night.
Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase presented Manning for the AFC Offensive Player of the Year at the gathering.
Manning’s five-year, $96 million deal runs through the 2016 season. He won his record fifth MVP award this past season with 5,477 passing yards to go with 55 touchdowns -- both were NFL single-season records. The Broncos also set a single-season scoring record with 606 points.
Manning is 26-6 in regular-season starts with Denver, with two AFC West titles to go with this past February’s Super Bowl trip.
The medical exams were built into the contract when the Broncos signed Manning in March of 2012. In the deal his $20 million salaries in both 2013 and 2014 were guaranteed, but 2014 could be voided if Manning had injured his neck this past season.
Last year the Broncos also purchased an insurance policy, as a business precaution, that covered any non-neck injuries that would prevent him from playing in 2014, because his contract would still be in place in that scenario.
Manning did deal with ankle injuries this season and the Broncos cut his practice time -- having him sit out Wednesdays -- for a time before the postseason began, but by the time the playoffs rolled around, Manning had returned to his participation level before he had suffered the ankle injuries. He did wear a brace on his right ankle for much of the year, but started 16 games in a season for the 15th time in his career.
14hEric D. Williams